In the 1930’s around Ranger, the roundup each spring was a big to-do. The only thing that probably surpassed it was the Fourth of July celebration and rodeo at Abilene.
The ranchers would all pool their resources and help each other. They would go from ranch to ranch to accomplish the working of the cattle. One of the ranches they went to was Dan Walton’s in Cook Canyon in the Cheaney Community. The menfolk would be vaccinating and marking the cattle, while the women folk cooked the mid-day meal called dinner. Some things have changed over the years. Now it is called breakfast, lunch, and dinner – back then it was breakfast, dinner, and supper.
One of the main dinner dishes were calf fries, sometimes now referred to as mountain oysters. These were thrown into the fire next to the branding irons right before time to eat. In a short time they were done, retrieved and placed on the table with all of the other delicious dishes.
At one of these affairs, five-year-old Ray Dell, seven-year-old Billy Dan and nine-year-old Lynn Lezious, son of the host rancher inquired of their father as to why the calves had to be branded and the ears notched. He replied, “They have to be marked so everyone will know who they belong to.”
The seven-year-old then asked, “Why can’t they just wear collars like your prize coon dogs?”
“Because some rustlers could remove the cattle’s collars and then go sell them,” the father replied.
The work was accomplished at the ranch that day. The next day these three boys were left at home while their parents Dan and Ima went to town.
Now these three young cowboys could not just fool away the day without accomplishing something worthwhile. They decided that the Something Worthwhile would be to brand and notch the ears of their father’s prize coon dogs. If the dogs were branded and the ears notched just like the calves had been the day before, no “coon dog rustler” would be able to sell these prize coon dogs by simply removing their collars.
The branding iron was soon red hot and the ropes were loosened up for dog roping. The first dog was the easiest to catch and throw down. The five-year-old cowboy was elected to sit on the dog’s head just like the cowboys had done with the calves on the previous day. The seven and nine-year-old cowboys proudly applied the “Bar W” branding iron to the right upper hip and the rodeo began.
Not even the Abilene rodeo could have matched the “celebration” of a prize coon dog getting a red hot branding iron applied to his right hip. The young cowboy that was sitting on the dog’s head was thrown into the air and bit on the right buttock before he could descend back to where the dog was lying. The dog took off and even these experienced dog ropers could not throw a noose on this prize coon dog and complete the job to notch the ears.
After the crying had stopped and no blood was found to be flowing, ropes were loosened up and the youngest cowboy remarked, “One down and two to go.”
It took a good bit more time for the experienced dog ropers to get a noose on dog number two and get it in position for the marking. It had been agreed that this time the older cowboy would do the sitting on the head. He was a little bit bigger and he could probably do a better job. This and the fact that the youngest cowboy had all of the experience he allowed as he needed of sitting on a dog’s head.
The youngest cowboy applied the red hot Bar W to dog number two’s right hip and the results were somewhat similar. The only difference being the older cowboy being bit on the left buttock.
This time after the crying had stopped, the cowboys were unable to find prize coon dog number three. It was decided that this was probably just as well because the cowboys had all the experience they wanted of sitting on dogs’ heads.
When the cowboys’ parents returned home that evening with prize coon dog number three, the father was still wondering why the dog had come all the way to the neighboring ranch to find his master.
The beaming young cowboys proudly informed their father of their day’s accomplishments and that the dog with him was the only prize coon dog that was not safe from dog rustlers.
The dog bites on the boys’ behinds were the only thing that saved them from a trip to the tack shed.
The middle cowboy did manage to grow up and has managed to go this far without branding any more dogs. He doesn’t go by the name of Dog Brander. He goes by Bill Walton.